Despite the closing of the Afrin region, occupied by Turkey, many witnesses report abuses by the jihadists allied to the occupiers: kidnappings, rapings and murders, particularly aimed at Kurds and the Christian and Yezidi minorities. Turkey is following its policy of ethnic cleansing together with rehousing of rebel fighters from Idlib of Eastern Ghouta in the houses of Kurdish families prevented from returning. It has also started setting up permanent military bases on Mount Nishan (Sarbeh) in the Bish Baraq region, West of Kakhara and in the Cindirêsê (Jandairis) district, Southwest of Afrin. The Syrian centre for Human Rights (SCHR) has also reported several meetings with Jihadist organisations, in particular the Al-Rahman unit, that could well be given the task the task of organising an Islamic Police and the setting up of Courts to try cases on the basis of their version of the Sharia. If hundreds of residents displaced from Eastern Ghouta have refused to be rehoused in the houses of displaced Kurds, 700 fanilies of members of al-Rahman have arrived in the region, especially at Jandairis.
At the beginning of May UNO estimated there were 126,000 displaced men, women and children, indicating indirectly Turkey and the Damascus regime as responsible: “Several parties to the conflict continue to hinder the movements of displaced people, preventing them (…) from returning to their home regions” (Rûdaw). The Rojava authorities have denounced Ankara’s breaches of the rights of civil populations of Afrin in a letter sent among others to UNO and the European Union at the beginning of May (NHA). Everything seems to show that the tacit agreement between Damascus and its Russian allies on the one hand and Ankara on the other entails an ethnic cleaning allowing each of them to strengthen its control of its own territories: Eastern Ghouta as well as Afrin…
The Yezidis seem to be particularly targeted: Omar Memo Abo Hanna, a Yezidi from the town of Qibar, kidnapped by Jihadist groups on 10th May, was found 3 days later with a bullet in his chest. In reply to the kidnappings, the Yezidi Centre of Jezirah and the Yezidi Union of Afrin published a joint statement condemning the Turkish government for its “racist attitude and its anti-Kurdish and anti-Yezidi chauvinism” (WKI). On the 21st the Jihadists destroyed the Yezidi Centre of Afrin and the next day the Yezidi temple and cemetery of the village of Feqîra. The Yezidis displaced to Turkey by the war are not treated any better. Those forcibly taken from the refugee camp in Diyarbekir province to the AFAD camp in Mardin province denounce the incessant hate discourse they receive from the staff and the camp managers as well as the difficult access to doctors, and the medicines they have to pay for…
Amongst the people kidnapped is a Kurdish journalist, missing for over two weeks, Ahmed Shafi Bilal. A video in which he appears was briefly visible on his Facebook page, showing him apparently in the hands of the Mashaal Tamo regiment. According to a source who prefers to be anonymous he was obliged to record the video by his kidnappers (Rûdaw). Several other people have already been made subject of a demand for reansom in this way. A 23-year-old Kurd from Afrin, Safkan Khalil, released on payment, testified that he had been imprisoned and tortured for 40 days (WKI). Others were kidnapped because they were suspected of links with the Rojava administration or because they were Yezidis… On the 20th May, the whereabouts of 16 Kurds from Bulbul kidnapped without anyone knowing by which faction were still unknown. A woman of Afrin, released by the FSA gave evidence that she had narrowly escaped being forcibly married to a jihadist and that she had seen another prisoner decapitated (Jin News) — prectices that evoke those of ISIS…
Keeping up their resistance to the occupation, the YPG announced on 4th May that they had eliminated at Afrin a Syrian charged with ethnic cleansing, Jamal al-Zakhlul. “He forced Afrin residents to flee and placed terrorist and their families in their abandoned houses” in coordination with the Turkish Secret Services. In the areas he controlled he imposed the Sharia… During the night of the 11th to 12th, the YPG confronted the occupiers some 6 Km North of the town (SOHR) and the Turkish air force intervened (Rûdaw). The YPG announced it had killed 15 occupants in 2 weeks.
On the 15th May Ahrar Al-Sham kidnapped 25 civilians from the town of Kurzila, and, according to a report by Rojava authorities, several women were kidnapped, some raped or tortured. On the 27th the Syrian Women’s Council indicated that 119 women had been Kidnapped and been victims of sexual abus and attacks (Jin News). A Yezidi man was also found murdered in Afrin. The occupiers attacked villages, sometimes several times, injuring and killing civilians. A 200 vehicle convoy that had come from Shehba and the North of Aleppo, bringing 1,500 displaced people wanting to move to Afrin, was blocked for 3 days before being attacked, near the village of Gilbara, by militia who kidnapped 50 civilians …
The Turkish danger also weighs on the rest of Rojava. On the 6th the Turkish President again repeated at an election meeting his determination to wage new operations that could go as far as the Iraqi border… The day before, the residents of Al-Bab, a town controlled by Ankara and the Al-Hamza group, had organised a general strike and a demonstration after some Jihadists had stormed into the hospital and killed members of the staff. The Turkish soldiers then reportedly opened fire on the demonstrators (AfrinResist). On the 11th the Turkish Army targeted the village of Ghazil (Girê Spî district) with a missile (that, fortunately, did not explode) and then launched a series of shots at vehicles and residents at Ali Shibar village, near Kobanî, though no casualties were reported. Turkish artillery fire on workers near Kobanî and Qamishlo prevented the maintenance work on several water supply piping. On the 26th, during the “Wold Day of action for Afrin” organised by the Rojava authorities, the inhabitants of Qamishlo and Shehba demonstrated against the Turkish occupation.
However the main thorn in Thurkey’s foot is still Manbij, a town defended by the fighters of a local military Council affiliated to the SDF. Moreover there are US and French troops stationed in the town. Ankara has been trying to apply pressure on the US for the last 4 months to secure the withdrawal of the SDF. On the 9th, however, the Council confirmed the setting up of a new US base in the town. The Turkish foreign Minister, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, announced the 17th that Ankara had obtained from the Americans a “preliminary agreement” regarding the town, but the US State Department’s spokesperson, Heather Nauert, denied it on the 19th. Meanwhile a US military delegayion met the town’s military Council on the 18th and the latter was able to announce they had recruited 90 fresh fighters. This little Turko-American game of announcements and denials regarding Manbij has been going on since the 15th February, the date of a 3-hour-long meeting between Tillerson and Erdoğan, without any official interpreter, Çavuşoglu playing this role, in which it was decided to set up a working group on the town’s future. On the 26th a joint communiqué announced the setting up of a “road map” to “ensurte the security and stability of Manbij”… Nevertheless it increasingly appears that in their discussions with the Turks either the Americans are trying to gain time or that the Turks publish announcements for domestic use, or take their dreams for reality: on the 29th Heather Nauert denied the new announcements by Turkish media that the SDF were leaving the town, which would then be patrolled in common by Americans and Turks… for the 4th time since the February. Questioned on 20th, she had already replied she was unable to confirm any agreement and has always made the same reply since then, on the 20th March, 22nd March and 17th May…
Regarding the anti-ISIS operation in Eastern Syria, interrupted by the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the SDF military spokesperson for the SDF in Deir Ezzor, Lilwa Abdallah, announced on 1st of May the launching of its “final phase”. This was confirmed that evening by the State Department. On the same day the SDF spokesman, Gabriel Kino, accused Damascus of interfering by firing at the SDF along the Euphrates, mentioning the attacks on 4 villages on the 28th April. On the 3rd the Coalition announced that French troops would be taking part in the operations, the international support to the SDF gradually shifting from air strikes to long range artillery shellings. On the 7th SDF announced that in some locations it was just 4 km from the Iraqi borders. On the 10th the SDF again riposted to some artillery fire, attributed to pro-Damas militia. On the 14th Kino announced they had taken the strategic village of Baghouz, close to the Euphrates. This was confirmed by the SCHR, which also reported 18 jihadists killed in the fighting or by the air strikes. On the 20th there was fierce fighting near Baghouz and the village of Hajine, while the SDF advanced regularly on the ground “thanks to the American and French artillery fire”, ater having won, on the 19th, “a hill overlooking Hajine and two neighbouring villages” (SCHR). The Iraqi forces stationed on the other side of the border closed the latter to prevent any jihadists from escaping. Abu Abdalla, a member of the Deir Ezzor military Council, affiliated to the SDF, declared that the fighters had advanced 23 km further against ISIS (Kurdistan-24).
On the 24th the SDF announced they had captured in Raqqa the French jihadist Adrien Guihal («Abu Usama al-Faransi») acused of being the voice that claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice on July 2016. This capture revives the issue of the place where the trials of the thousands of jihadists captured by the Kurds should take place. They are at the moment detained in Rojava: should they be tried on the spot or in their country of origin? With some exceptions (Russia and Indonesia), no country really seems in a hurry to take back its own fellow countrymen in the face of very hostile public opinions. The Kurdish authorities wonder why they should keep these Western prisoners if their countries of origin do not even support Rojava when it is faced with Turkey? As for those previously being held in Afrin no one knows what happened to them.
After an appeal for unity issued at the beginning of the month by the leaders of the Kurdish National Council (ENKS, a coalition of parties opposed to the PYD in Rojava) a meeting was held in Erbil between representatives of the Rojava authorities and those of the Iraqi KRG, which had proposed to mediate between the ENKS and the former. Similar negotiations organised in 2014 had issued in the creation of a Supreme Kurdish Council, but it never worked. The ENKS was still waiting on the 23rd for some softening up in the field such as the release of its imprisoned members (Rûdaw). Some members of the ENKS are also members of the Syrian National Coalition, which supported the Turkish operation in Afrin…
While the Turkish abuses aroused little official reactions abroad, it must be said that the US State Department criticised, on the 4th, the prohibition of the displaced people of Afrin to return to their homes and the settling of displaced Arabs in the houses of Kurdish residents. But support did come from groups of citizens. On the 8th May a delegation of German women that had come to Rojava as part of a campaign of support for Afrin launched by Kongra Star condemned “the cooperation of NATO states, like Germany, with the Turkish State”. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister’s use on the 15th of the expression “Kurdish terrorism” aroused the fury of many social networks users, who remarked that this “so-called Kurdish terrorists” had been at the vanguard of the Western struggle against ISIS…
On the 31st, in an interview with Russia Today, the Syrian President Bachar el-Assad stated that he was open to negotiations with the SDF but threatened: “If the discussions don’t lead anywhere we will liberate the territories by force”. Assad moreover affirmed that a direct confrontation between Russia and the United States had been narrowly avoided when fighting had broken out between the regimes forces and the SDF in Deir Ezzor Province...
After having speeded up the electoral to take advantage of the nationalist wave that followed the conquest of Afrin and get the voting over before the economic crisis increases (the Turkish lira lost 17% since January), Erdogan is using all possible means to win and keep control of his country. A law passed in March in a wave of physical violence limits the access to the function of polling station assessors to civil servants, and allows the Electoral Commission (YSK) to fuse constituencies, move the polling stations and validate the bundles of ballot papers not stamped by any polling station — a measure started during the constitutional referendum, a real “stuffing of ballot boxes” made legal… Finally, the Audiovisual Higher Committee (RTU) own figures, published on the 13th, bear witness to the denial of democracy: between 17th April and 6th May the TRT (State Television) attributed 37 hours of screen time to the AKP-MHP alliance, 9 h 30 to the ultra-nationalist İYİ (a MHP scission, opposed to the AKP alliance), 5 h 30 to the CHP (Kemalist opposition) and to the HDP (which besides was criminalized in a real judiciary war)... nothing! On the State Kurdish-language TRT-6, AKP got 28 h 30, each of the other parties less than 30 mins! Afraid of Kurdish votes, Erdoğan absolutely wants to bar the HDP from obtaining a count of seats comparable to what it got in June 2015, after which he brutally terminated the “Peace process”...
In an interview transmitted by his lawyers to Reuters from his prison at Edirne, the former co-President of the “pro-Kurdish” HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, in prison for the last 17 months described the situation in these terms: “Demonstrations are forbidden, discussion is banned, criticism of the government is forbidden, even defending peace is considered terrorist propaganda. Hundreds of opposition journalists have been arrested and dozens of television channels have been closed down (…). Equitable elections are impossible in such a context”. In an interview for Deutsche Welle, he then criticised Europe for having abandoned the democratic opposition in Turkey — and its own principles.
For the 1st May the authorities severely repressed the demonstrations and forbade slogans in Kurdish for being “incomprehensible”. In Istanbul, 26,000 police threw tear gas grenades and arrested demonstrators who tried to enter Taksim Square (forbidden). They arrested 84 people following clashes in several quarters. The HDP, CHP and several Trade Unions held a meeting at Maltepe. In Diyarbakir, the Kurdish parties were able to meet peacefully.
The far-from-clear attitude of the non-Kurdish opposition has contributed to the isolation of the HDP: the CHP and the Islamist party “Felicity” announced their “National” alliance in opposition to the “Popular” AKP-MHP alliance, in the absence of any Kurdish party. The İYİ party is said to have rejected integration with the HDP… Allied for the parliamentary elections, these parties will go separately to the presidential elections, planned the same day...
Faced with this exclusion, the Kurdish parties tried to unite. On the 2nd, five Kurdish organisations, Azadi, the Party of Freedom for Kurdistan (PAK), the Socialist Party of Kurdistan (PSK), the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and the Platform for Democracy in Kurdistan, announced from Diyarbekir a coalition “Kurdistan” for “defending the Rights of Kurds” and discussions with HDP, which will have the role of supporting structure (none of them can itself take part in the parliamentary election, since the electoral law imposes a national recruitment). At local level this new alliance has already been able to have its candidate elected as President of the Diyarbakir Chamber of Commerce, ousting the AKP… (Al-Monitor). The AKP-MHP alliance has played the role of repellent even for the Kurdish Islamic Party kurde Hüda-Par, the traditional enemy of the “pro-Kurdish movement”. Its spokesman, Sait Şahin, declared on the 26th that he was ready to normalise relations with HDP (Cumhuriyet), criticizing the posthumous congratulations addressed by the MHP leader, Devlet Bahçeli, to the extreme-Right mafiosius Abdullah Çatlı for “having given great services to the Turkish State”. Dead in 1996 in the notorious road accident at Susurluk which had revealed the links between the State, the mafia and fascists, Çatlı had assassinated or arranged the assassination of many Kurdish activists… In another attempt to unite the Kurdish votes, on the 9th Ahmed Turk, former MP and mayor of Mardin, led an HDP delegation to HAK-PAR (Hak ve Özgürlükler Partisi).
On the 4th, the HDP announced that its candidate for the Presidential election was Selahattin Demirtas, officialising a decision taken on 25th April by the Executive Coucil after which an Istanbul court had demanded a 5 year sentence, postponing the final sentencing to 8 June, two weeks before the election... Demirtaş has attacked this prosecution, recalling that the 2013 speech that earned him this indictment for “terrorist propaganda” had been made in support of the peace process in which the HDP had played the role of intermediary between the government and the PKK. Demirtaş’s nomination was announced on Internet by the present day female co-President, Pervin Buldan, as all TV channels censored the news. The HDP launched the campaign in Istanbul during a meeting with its present male co-President, Sezai Temelli, whose passport was confiscated on the same day to prevent him from waging campaign abroad.
In contrast to other members of the non-Kurdish opposition, the CHP presidential candidate, Muharrem İnce, already one of the only CHP members to oppose in May 2016 the lifting of Parliamentary immunity from the HDP members of Parliament, criticised Demirtaş’s imprisonment and, accompanied by lawyers, visited him in his cell on the 9th. Demirtaş welcomed this initiative of “political courtesy”. When, on the 5th the Electoral Commission (YSK) had announced the candidates of parties having less than 20 Members of Parliament would have to collect 100,000 signatures of electors before being allowed to stand for the Presidency, Ince expressed his opposition and asked the CHP Members to sign for the other candidates...
Also on the 5th, an Istabul court had ruled for the arrest for “terrorist propaganda” of 10 pro-Kurdish public figures placed in detention since 28th April, including Cengiz Çiçek, co-President of the Istanbul HDP (NTV). The evidence for the charges: posters of Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned leader of the PKK. Other HDP members were jailed on the same day after raids in Denizli Province, especially to the home of the co-President of the provincial HDP, Cevahir Kayar (ANF). On the 8th, Dirayet Taşdemir, the HDP Member of Parliament for Ağrı was sentenced at Erzurum to 20 months jail for terrorism: she had attended the funerals of PKK members (Stockholm Centre for Freedom, SCF). On the 9th after searchs in Van Province, 5 people were arrested (Rojinfo), including Bülent Aydın, HDP co-President of BDP (Party of the Democratic Regions, the Kurdish branch of the HDP) of the Gevaş district.
Despite the repression, nearly 2 million Tutks dared to express their discontent with Erdoğan by sending, in two days, an avalanche of angry tweets containing the word “tamam” (enough): the Turkish President had declared to Parliament on the 8th that he would leave if the Nation said “enough”. Faced with the extent of the movement many leaders of the opposition joined it — including Muharrem İnce.
Despite repeated demands by the HDP no court has granted release to Demirtaş. The situation has become so scandalous that, on the 15th even Meral Akşener, the İYİ presidential candidate, called for his release. On the 17th the former HDP co-President, Figen Yuksekdağ, formulated the same demand during her appearance in Ankara’s Sincan Prison, where the authorities refused entry to the Swedish Ambassador and an international delegation. Demirtaş is also kept in isolation; on the 25th the authorities rejected a demand to visit him by the HDP co-Presidents. On the 29th the HDP applied to the Constitutional Court.
On the 14th the HDP announced its campaign slogans during a meeting in Ankara: “Changes with you”, “Changes with women” and “Changes with Youth”. Demirtaş announced a programme with social measures for pensioners and youth and in favour of women’s equality but the real issue is the return to democracy…
On the 16th, the HDP parliamentary candidate Sidar Zana Bilir was jailed by the police for “terrorist preopaganda”, following a raid on her house in Batman Province (Turkey Purge). On the 17th an Ankara Public Prosecutor demanded the immediate lifting of parliamentary immunity from the Armenian M.P, Garo Paylan, for having “insulted Turkishness” and the Turkish Republic (article 301 of the Criminal Code). Paylan had compared in the Canadian-Armenian weekly Horizon Weekly the “contemporary daily genocide” with “1915”… On the 23rd the Gaziantep appeal court approved the sentence of 16 years and 8 months against İdris Baluken, the HDP Member of Parliament from Diyarbekir (SCF). On the 25th the BDP co-President Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced to 5 months jail for having participated in 2012 in a peaceful march of support for prisoners on hunger strike. On the 26th four HDP candidates for parliament, Leyla Güven, Tayyip Temel, Musa Farisoğulları et Pero Dündar, arrested in 2009, were sentenced to various term in in prison in the case against the KCK (Union of Kurdish communities) (SCF).
On the 28th the Electoral Commission announced the moving of polling stations in certain regions (mainly with Kurdish majorities) covering 144,000 voters, “to prevent the intimidation of electors”. The HDP denounced the transfers to pro-AKP villages, which aims, in his view, to keep it below the 10% threshold necessary to enter Parliament, and promised to help its elector to go to the new polling stations.
The journalists, especially those working for “pro-Kurdish” media, continued to suffer persecution. On the 2nd, Sıddık Damar, working for the DİHA agebcy (now closed down) was arrested in Istanbul for his very critical posts on the social media and his reports of the Kurdish cities under curfew (SCF). On the 6th, Gökhan Öner, of the Dihaber web site (now also closed down) was placed in “preventive” detention for terrorism. On the 8th another journalist from DİHA, Şerife Oruç, had to appear at a Batman court, charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation”, while İshak Karakaş, chief editor of the daily Halkın Nabzı, was appearing begore an Istanbul court facing the same charges (Turkey purge). On the 11th, Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of the daily Özgür Gündem (closed doen) was placed in temporary detention before trial. During a press conference given the 8th at the Diyarbekir branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Durket Süren and Nurcan Yalçın of the Women’s agency Jinnews testified that they had been threatened while in detention to make them work as police informers. İHD spoke of many similar cases...
Judicial persecutions also touched other people, like the American pastor Andrew Brunson, detained since October 2016 for terrorism and spying for both the Gulen network and the PKK (!!), whose trial was resumed on the 7th and decided to keep him in detention because of the “danger of flight” before adjourning the case till 18th July. Sad irony, the Turkish authorities opposed to the US demands for his release the “independence” of the judiciary, while the prosecution makes great play of... anonymous witnesses.
Being related to an opposition candidate can “justify” the loss of a job, as in the case of the brother of HDP Member Meral Danış Bektaş, a neurologist at Diyarbekir Hospital: he was sacked by a state of emergency decree, although his personal file was empty. Just being Kurdish can justify persecution, as in the case of the soldier Fikret Aydemir, beaten into a coma by 2 other soldiers, who had to be sent to hospital.
Finally the post coup d’État arrests are still continuing: on the 11th, 80 members of the Air Force and 150 soldiers accused of being members of a Gulenist network were attested (Anadolu). They are part of a group of 300, including 211 officers in active service whom the Istanbul Prosecutors are investigating.
Abroad, while the governments, like Theresa May in the United Kingdom, are widely acting as if it was “business as usual” with Turkey, the oppositions are everywhere mobilising against Erdoğan. On the 9th the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, declared that the restrictions in the “freedom of expression, of assembly and of association” were incompatible with the holding of “credible elections”, calling for the lifting of the state of emergency. In Germany the social-democratic party Die Linke, recalling the use in Afrin of German Leopard tanks, proposed a Bill to make it illegal to sell arms and military skills to several countries, including Turkey, even allowing to revise agreement already concluded. On the 4th a similar law was passed by the US House of Representatives that would block any sale until a report of the Defence Department on Turko-American relations has been heard. In this respect we are struck by the almost surrealist declarations of the newly appointed US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, during the audition of a US Foreign Affairs Commission on the 23rd: he would work on “bringing [Turkey] to join NATO and (…) not to wage actions that undermine its efforts”. Sorry Mr. Secretary? Turkey joined NATO in … 1952. But one can understand Mr. Pompeo’s preoccupations seeing Mr. Erdogan’s unceasingly war-like rhetoric – the AKP power feeds on war…
In the United Kingdom, Theresa May, seeking a post-Brexit free trade agreement, rolled out the red carpet for Erdogan’s State visit on 13-15th — while the latest trade figures show that Great Britain sold over a billion dollars worth of arms to Ankara since the coup (Middle-East Eye). The Financial Times notices that the Turco-British trade, boosted by uncertainties, including Brexit, has reached its highest level for ten years at 16 billion dollars. Activists for Human Rights at home, opposition politicians and even (sign or the seriousness of the situation) exiled Turkish businessmen have called for an end to the anti-terrorist witch hunt in Turkey (The Guardian). Demonstrations, called in particular by Reporters sans frontières, even provoked clashes with the police in London, even before the arrival of the Turksih President. He was received by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in private audience… In his joint press conference with the British Peime Minister, Erdoğan called London to extradite any people linked to the PKK, and if Theresa May provoked polemics by talking about “Kurdish terrorism”, she also recalled the necessity for “proofs of terrorist activity”. Faithful to himself, Erdoğan ended his official visit by calling “terrorists” all the imprisoned Turkish journalists.
Several Turkish opposition figures have been honoured these last months by Human Rights Defence organisations. On the 18th the Kurdish journalist of Ahval, Nuran Baysal, received the Front Line Defenders Irish group’s Prize. Jailed in January for her tweets condemning the Afrin operation, sentenced in February to 10 months suspended for having attacked the abuses and acts of violence in the Kurdish towns, daily threatened by the ultranationalists, Ms Baysal made a speech in the Dublin Town Hall. On the 26th, the lawyer Eren Keskin, tireless defender of Human Rights, was rewarded by the Anna Lindh 2018 Prize, awarded by the Anna Lindh Memorial Fund, that she will officially receive in Stockholm on 19th June (Turkey Purge). Finally on the 30th an appeal to support Pinar Selek, a Turkish sociologist exiled to Europe following her defence of minorities, and again threatened with a life sentence by the Turkish Supreme Court, was launched in France. Supported in particular by the CNRS, it aims at drawing attention to the danger facing her family, who still lives in Turkey, where it is in danger of being used as a hostage.
On the 6th the Turkish President presenting his election programme re-affirmed his determination to launch new external military operations “to clean up the borders of terrorist groups”. In Iraqi Kurdistan the “Tigris Shield” operation, the largest for a decade, is going on since more than two months. The Turkish Army penetrated of over 20 km into the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) territory, occupying at least 30 villages taken from the PKK, and forcing the evacuation of more than 350 others, setting up bases on 8 summits of the Sidakan region, between Qandil, the PKK stronghold, and the Turkish borders. The PKK attacked the invaders in the Bradost region, killing 2 Turkish soldiers and wounding 5 others on 6th May (Rojinfo). In 2 other attacks claimed, 5 soldiers are said to have been killed and 9 wounded. After some fighting on the ground the 10th, the Turkish artillery shelled several villages of this region on the 11th, while the PKK claimed 19 Turkish soldiers killed and 8 others wounded in an attack on a Turkish camp at Lelikan. Some pictures aired on the Iraqi Kurdish TV channel Rûdaw showed columns of smoke in the mountains. On the 16th the PKK again announced the death of 5 Turkish soldiers at Lelikan. On the 18th the Turkish Army, in turn, announced that some air raids had allowed the destruction of 12 PKK targets in the preceding two days (Anadolu) and announced on the 20th that between 10th and 17th May 23 PKK fighters had been “neutralised”. On the 22nd the Turkish Army announced the death of 2 of its soldiers in an attack with mortars at Lelikan, 2 others being wounded (Kurdistan 24). The Turkish forces retaliated using a drone. The PKK claimed the death of 11 soldiers. Finally, on the 31st the Army announced the death of 3 soldiers in Iraqi Kurdistan without specifying where. On the 29th the death of another soldier was announced as well as air strikes in retaliation.
On the Turkish side of the border, the Governor of Hakkari imposed a curfew from the 8th to the 23rd in 30 different areas, particularly in the districts of Cukurca, Şemdinli and Yuksekova, and on the 21st the Turkish Minister of the Interior announced the elimination of 23 PKK fighters. On the 23rd the General Staff announced the elimination of 15 PKK activists, 12 in Kars province and 3 in Siirt. Furthermore, at Muş a lad of 12 was seriously wounded on the 24th at the second floor of a block of flats by shots from an armoured vehicle (ANF). According to witnesses the police attacked with tear gas the residents protesting against the incident.
The most important event this month in Iraq was the carrying out, with relatively little violence, of the fourth parliamentary elections since Saddam Hussein’s fall, and the first since the defeat of ISIS. Both their rate of participation, the lowest since 2003 (44.25%), and in their results (the first place was won by the improbable alliance Sayirûn of the Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr and the Communists) expressed the rejection of corruption. In Kurdistan, however, despite the years of institutional crisis, the results showed more stability, as the two traditional parties, the KDP and the PUK on the whole keep their place. Throughout the country, however, charges of fraud, especially against the electronic machines for counting the votes, were immediately levelled, and have only increased since then. Finally the political fragmentation affecting each community is so great that no list got enough seats to form a government, which might lead to long negotiations and haggling…
In Kurdistan, however, the social situation has gradually improved, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) again managing to pay its civil servants thanks to the 317 billion Dinars monthly received from Baghdad rounded up by its sales of hydrocarbons. The holding back of part of the salaries has diminished but there are still arrears from 2015-2017 to settle… On the 7th, the Ministry of the Interior staff at Ranya demonstrated to demand the aligning of their salaries with those received by the Iraqi Army (NRT). On the 24th the US Defence Department awarded 290 million dollars to the Peshmergas for 2019. Those economical questions obviously had an important place in the election campaigns of the Kurdish parties: Barham Salih, former Prime Minister and leader of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) promised the gradual reimbursement of the held back parts of earlier salaries...
The question of the sale of hydrocarbons by the KRG, eternal bone of contention between Baghdad and Erbil, was before the Federal Court following a complaint filed by the Iraqi Oil Ministry. However on the 6th the case was postponed to 3 June even as Baghdad announced an agreement with BP to triple the production of the Kirkuk oil fields… Another source of Baghdad-Erbil dispute on the way to being settled is the payment for crops sold to Baghdad by Kurdish agriculturalists, suspended in 2014 at the same time as the sending of the share of the Federal Budget: after Sulaimaniyeh and Dohouk, the Kurdish farmers of Erbil will be paid as Baghdad sent the necessary funds on the 28th (Rûdaw). Finally the normalisation of air links with the renewal of flights announced for the 10th June for Sulaimaniyeh-Iran flights (the flights Sulaimaniyeh-Turkey remain suspended because, according to Ankara, of PUK-PKK links...).
Concerning electricity, with the elections approaching the KRG announced on the 17th that it would supply 15 h a day throughout Ramadan, and on the 24th, Erbil promised 24 hours a day with the completion by private generators!
The Kurdish parties began their campaigns as from the beginning of the month, Qubad Talabani calling, on the 1st, the PUK to reconciliation. On the 4th the KDP launched its first meeting in Sulaimaniyeh with Nechirvan Barzani. The Gorran opposition movement published a programme of “defending Kurdish interests” in Baghdad, promising to “correct the enormous mistakes” of the KDP and the PUK, responsible in its view for the loss of a number of territories. On the 7th the leader of the Islamic Group of Kurdistan (Komal), Ali Bapir, exhorted voters not to vote for candidates who failed to do their prayers... If the campaign was marked by little violence, some incidents should be noted. On the 7th the head for Erbil of “New Generation” (the movement of Shaswar Abdullah), Rabun Maruf, was attacked and had to be taken to hospital. On the 10th at Khanaqin, in the disputed territories, the KDP candidate for Diyala was wounded and accused supporters of the Shiite list Fatih (Conquest). The PUK female candidate for the province was also attacked and wounded.
In the rest of Iraq, although ISIS had threatened to disturb the vote, provoking the issuing of a security alarm by the US Embassy, the jihadists were only able to wage limited actions. In the evening of May 1st, 20 members of the security forces were killed or wounded at Tarmiyah, to the North of Bagdad (Kurdistan-24); on the 9th another attack was repelled at Jalawla (Diyala) ) (iraqinews.com). In Kirkuk a bomb was defused near a polling station, and to the South of the city, at least 9 police were killed. At Diyala a mortar was fired during the voting in a village 15 km East of Bakuba, wounding 2 members of the security. On the 12th a bomb killed a Kurdish kakayi near Zaqar (Daquq district, Kirkuk province), provoking a riposte from security forces that killed 12 jihadists (Kurdistan-24). Another bomb killed 3 people at al-Khan (South of Kirkuk) including an observer of the election (NRT). On the 13th a bomb killed a policeman on the Khanaqin-Kalar main road. Finally on the 23rd some jihadists attacked an Arab village in Diyala — Sleman Wahab (Jalawla), whose inhabitants retaliated.
To ensure the security of the poll, the government ordered the closing of the borders and air space while a million soldiers, police and Peshmergas voted two days earlier (at the same time as those under detention, hospitalised patients and Iraqis abroad) to facilitate the protection of the polling stations on the 12th. If the Kurdish police of the disputed areas were able to vote without any problems, some Peshmergas met difficulties in the absence of a Baghdad-Erbil agreement about their presence. This early election also revealed the first breakdowns of the electronic vote-counting machines at Kirkuk. Despite the sending of maintenance teams, this prevented 34% of the electors from voting! As from the 9th a leading member of the Kurdistan Electoral Commission, Ismail Khurmali, had warned about the danger represented by these easily reprogrammable machines for fraud undetectable by the supervisors in the absence of manual recount (Kurdistan-24)...
These elections also raised the problem of minorities. Some of them (Christians, Yezidis … ) enjoy some reserved seats in Parliament (9 out of 329) spread over 6 provinces — but not the Turkmen of Kurdistan, present in par(ticular on KDP’s lists, who have run a campaign to obtain one. The Faili Kurds (Shiite Kurds from Baghdad), who have just obtained one, have asked the Federal Court that their votes be counted globally, not by provinces. Indeed, these Kurds, the great majority of whom come from Baghdad, have had their seat assigned to Wassir (formerly the province of Kut), a real symbolic expulsion from the capital… The Court sent them back to Parliament to decide… Finally the communities dispersed over several lists are sometimes penalised, like the Yezidis of Sindjar (Shengal), who didn’t have an elected Member. Out of 22 Yezidi candidates, the reserved seat went to the one from Bashiqa (Nineveh).
Out of 24.5 million registered electors (including 1 million abroad) only 10 million voted, that is a participation of 44.52%, the lowest of the post-Saddam era. All the communities took part divided: the Shiites had 5 lists, the Kurds, weakened by the post-referendum sanctions, had 7 lists (KDP, PUK, Gorran, 2 Islamic parties, New Generation, CDJ) and the Sunni Arabs 4. At national level the winners were 2 Shiite “anti-system” lists. At the top in 6 provinces, including Baghdad, and in 2nd position in 4 others, the anti-corruption alliance Sayirun (Forward March) of the Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr with the Communists won 54 seats. The Alliance of Former members of the Hashd al-Shaabi led by Hadi al-Amiri, Fatih (Conquest), supported by Iran, arrived first in 4 provinces (including Bassrah) and 2nd in 8 others. It was second with 47 seats. The alliance Nasr (Victory) led by the outgoing Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was 3rd with 42 seats. The party “State of Law” led by the still older Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won 25 seats (later raised to 26), while the list Hikma led by the religious leader Ammar al-Hakim won 19 seats. Amongst the Kurds the KDP won 25 seats and the PUK 18.
Although first, Sadr is however far from having an absolute majority (165 sears), which leads one to foresee difficult negotiations, in which the Kurds and the Sunni Arab could play a role: very opposed to Iranian interference, Sadr affirms he will not discuss with Amiri and doesn’t want Maliki either...
The announcing of the preliminary results on the 15th provoked a flood of rejections, that only increased when the Electoral Commission published the final results on the 19th, broadly confirming the first announcement, while the post electoral negotiations began immediately… The Kurdish parties won 58 seats in 5 provinces as shown jn the table below, with the breakdown given by parties. The KDP won the day in its traditional strongholds, Dohuk and, to a lesser extent, Erbil, the PUK in Sulaimaniyeh (and in Kirkuk, provoking the fury of the other communities of the city …)
In Kurdistan some inter-Kurdish acts of violence were reported immediately after the voting. Gorran announced that its HQ in Sulaimaniyeh had been encircled and then targeted by gun fire by a PUK unit (this pushed the movement to contemplate the creation of militia of 10,000 members). But most important, in Kurdistan as in the whole of Iraq, many suspicions of fraud were rapidly expressed. Gorran accused the PUK of having reprogrammed the vote-counting machines, and on the 14th of May, 6 Kurdish parties announced their rejection of the preliminary results and called for fresh elections in Kurdistan and the disputed territories. The Wataniya Alliance of the first Prime Minister, Ayad Allaoui formulated the same demand at the Iraqi level. While the Electoral Commission announced that the votes from polling booths returned to manual counting because of electronic counting devices failures would not be taken into account (NRT), a growing number of lists demanded a return to manual counting.
Suspected of fraud in Sulaimaniyeh and Kirkuk, the PUK accused the KDP of having hindered the movements and intimidated the electors of Ninevah and Shingal (Sindjar) in the province of Mosul, where it only won a single seat and contested 3 of the 7 obtained by the KDP. Nevertheless, on the 20th KDP and PUK decided to set aside their differences to meet together the Iraqi parties in Baghdad in the negotiations for a new government. The other Kurdish political parties together hold 18 seats and had at first discussions separately, some of them calling for the boycott of the political process to protest against the frauds, before considering an alliance in the Baghdad Parliament.
The Electoral Commission was also finally touched by serious internal disagreement. One of its members, Ayad Kakayi, demanded on the 16th a manual recount, whereas its chief, Riyadh al-Badran, refused it, accusing Kakayi of giving way to the pressures of certain political parties... On the 17th the Speaker if the Iraqi Parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, published a letter signed by 81 members of Parliament describing the results of the election as a “disaster” and demanding an emergency parliamentary session for the 19th. The KDP and the PUK decided to boycott this session because, according to them, “nothing will come of it” (Rûdaw). On the 19th the session could not be held for lack of a quorum — only 105 Members present — and was re-convened for the 24th. It was only at the fourth attempt that, on the 28th, the Iraqi Parliament was able to meet in an emergency session with 165 Members present. It approved the manual recounting of 10% of the votes, adding that if 25% of the votes were judged irregular, then all the votes would be recounted manually. It was decided to recount manually the votes of Kirkuk and certain polling stations in the disputed territories, to annul the votes from abroad as well as the “conditional votes” (those of a number of electors who voted with their identity card instead of their electors card), in most of the refugee camps (the annulment of the many votes cast in camps mainly hit the Yezidis).
Several parties considered that the Parliament had exceeded its powers, and the PUK decided to challenge these decisions legally. The head of the Electoral Commission also rejected them, declaring it was impossible to deprive of their right to vote 4 million displaced persons and 1 million Iraqis abroad… The Council of Ministers announced the formation of a Committee composed of various branches of the State and government to supervise the decisions of the Electoral Commission. On the 31st the confusion was still further increased when, as guardian of the Constitution, President Fuad Massoum declared the recent decisions of Parliament unconstitutional and demanded that the Federal Court rule on the legality of this Committee of supervision…
The results were eagerly awaited in the disputed territories, including the strategic Province of Kirkuk (13 seats, including one reserved for Christians), rich in oil and with a multi-ethnic population, and they were particularly contested. In 2014 the Kurds had won 8 seat (6 for PUK and 2 for KDP), the Arab and Turkmen communities had had 2 seats each (AFP). There were 291 candidates — including 80% new ones — spread out over 31 lists. The KDP, which had called for a boycott in the disputed territories re-taken by the Iraqis in October, because it considered them to be “Occupied”, was not present. The Kurdish candidates, particularly the PUK, had been obliged to censor their campaign speeches while their Turkmen and Arab adversaries multiplied posters and meetings. Nevertheless, the preliminary results gave the PUK 6 seats, the Arab and Turkmen lists 2 each, 2 other seats remaining suspended… The Turkmen and Arab lists rejected those results, then, after the publication of the final results, in which the Arab and Turkman lists won 3 seats each, some armed partisans of the Fatih Coalition of the Hashd al-Shaabi surrounded the office of the Electoral Commission, demanding a manual recount (Kurdistan-24). Other armed men surrounded several polling stations of the town in which were members of the Electoral Commission, whose head described this as “taking hostages”. The Governor of the province, Rakan al-Djuburi, proclaimed a curfew for the night, ordered the recount, speaking of the “illogical” result of the electronic counting (Reuters). The Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, distancing himself from the Electoral Commission’s choice of electronic gadgetry, also called for a manual recount in the province — adding that in the event of frauds it would have to be extended to the whole of Iraq. Then hundreds of members of the Iraqi Turkmen Front surrounded the store where the ballot boxes were kept, preventing the Electoral Commission from recovering them.
On the 30th the Electoral Commission cancelled the votes of 1021 polling stations, 186 in Kirkuk and 67 abroad, and announced an equiry… The PUK gave its support to an overall manual recount, while criticising the cancelations.
In the middle of this confusion, perhaps one positive point: after that the KRG Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, set on the 8th May the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of Kurdistan for 30th September, Kurdistan’s Electoral Commission announced on the 22nd that, following the demand of 5 Kurdish parties, accepted unanimously, electronic counting would not be used...
This month Kurdish shopkeepers and kolbars (porters) continued their strike against the closing of borders and the high custom duties imposed on Iranian Kurdistan. Started at the town of Baneh on 15th April, the movement spread to Jwanrow, Mariwan, Piranshar, Saqqez and Urmia. In response the Iranian authorities, according to Kurdistan press Agency (Kurdpa) deployed large numbers of security forces in the Kurdish towns, particuly in Baneh, and blocked Intermet (as they regularly do in the event of political trouble) to prevent the media from covering the event. According to the Iranian Kurdish media, the security forces carried out many arrests and threatened the shop owners to make them open, as on the 20th April at Baneh, Piranshahr, Marivan and Javanrud, though without succeeding in stopping the strike.
In parallel the Iranian Courts forbade the use of smartphone messaging Telegram application, affirming that it had been used to commit various crimes, notably to prepare demonstrations and attacks, including the one in Teheran against the Parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in June 2017 — a method of still further criminalising those charged by the thousands of enquiries opened into the recent demonstrations against the regime. The State Television justified the decision to forbid the use of Telegram by preoccupations of “national security” and all the Internet suppliers were to block the application and its web site as from the 30th April. In reply to this ban and the repression of demonstrations, Iranians have turned to creative means of expressing their opposition — for example by transforming banknotes into anti-regime leaflets, photos of which have gone viral on the social networks!
During the 1st May demonstrations, to which the alliance of Iranian Kurdish parties had called for full participation (Rûdaw), the authorities, according to the ILNA agency, arrested 6 people in Teheran.
On the 4th, Baneh was closely controlled by anti-riot forces (Kurdistan Human Rights Network, KHRN), and thousands of residents went by car to a mosque several km from the town to take part in prayers led by a local religious leader, Mohammad Adibi, who offers encouragement to the faithful, so that they can continue to participate peacefully in the general strike which has paralysed Baneh since the 15 April (VOA Persan). On the same day, KHRN announced the arrest of dozens of strikers without being able to give any details because of the cut communications. On the 6th the shopkeepers of the Baneh region temporarily reopened their shops while pointing out that the strike would continue if the authorities did not keep the promises made to the strikers (KHRN). A delegation from the Iranian government reportedly promised to open a trading passage point and two cross-border access roads destined to the kolbars.
On the 6th, 15 Kurdish members of Parliament announced in a press conference that they would resign collectively if their proposals for modifying the law were not followed. They further stressed that the semi-official closing of border posts gambled with the daily lives of millions of electors (Rûdaw): their spokesman, Jalal Mahmudzadeh, from Mahabad, stated that millions of Iranians needed the trade represented by the kolbars, and that the restrictions imposed on the latter had caused serious financial difficulties. The loss of jobs caused by the closing of the border crossing points is estimated at several tens of thousands…
On the 8th, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) called on the inhabitants of Iranian Kurdistan to carry out a general strike in solidarity with the towns bordering Iraqi Kurdistan, but also to condemn the Islamic Republic’s policy of “economical strangulation”. On the 10th the teachers came out into the streets in Sanandaj, Ilam, Kermanshah, Marivan, Diwandare and Saqqez (Hengaw Human Rights News) to protest against the reduction in their salaries and to demand improvement of conditions of education and, especially the possibility of teaching in Kurdish. The teachers of Shiraz, Ispahan, of Tabriz and Kazerun also protested against their low salaries and the bad conditions of education (Radio Farda), as also did those of Teheran (BBC persan), where the civil security forces attacked the demonstrators and arrested 11.
In an interview granted to VOA in Persian on the 18th a spokesman reiterated the position of the shopkeepers of Baneh: if the government did not reopen, as it had promised, the cross-border passages by the end of Ramadan, in mid-June, the strike would restart.
Alongside with the strikes and demonstrations in the bazaars of Iranian Kurdistan, the abuses of power by the border guards regarding the kolbars increased this month. On the 1st May photos and videos of dozens of kolbars’ horses slaughtered on the border between the Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan have aroused, as soon as broadcast on the social networks, the disgust and anger of Iranians who have not ceased to press for an end to this kind of massacre aimed at innocent animals. The subject was finally tackled in Teheran’s Parliament on the 7th May, where a pro-regime M.P., Ahmad Ali Keykha, demanded that tranquilisers should be used instead and the horses confiscated and resold (France-24).
On the evening of the 5th the Revolutionary Guards also arrested, near the border at Piranshahr, some dozens of kolbars. To prevent them transporting their goods they confiscated or even burnt them (NRT). According to the Firat press agency, no less than 1,300 people were prevented from transferring goods to the borders between Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
On the 15th the Iranian border guards once again shot down a kolbar, then on the 20th the Human Rights Association of Kurdistan reported a fresh assassination and two wounded: this time it was some peasants targeted by border guards while harvesting their fields near the Iraqi Kurdistan border. On the same day the Iranian authorities again shot down some dozens of horses belonging to kolbars.
On the 31st the Hengaw association for the defence of Human Rights has expressed its concern in a communiqué at the increasing number of deaths amongst the kolbars. Kamal Mohammadi, a kolbar from Baneh was shot down on the 30th by Revolutionary Guards. Transported to hospital in Sulaimaniyeh, he died before arriving there. Another named Salim Khalili is said to have been killed by Iranian forces at Shino (Oshnavieh, Western Azerbaïdjan). In the last 10 days of the month, Hengaw has recorded 4 kolbars killed and 7 others wounded. The KHRN, for its part, has recorded 6 killed, warning that “the systematic murdering of kolbars is increasing”.
It is, perhaps, good news for the cross-border Kurds of Iran: on the 24th the passage point of Sartak-Pishta between Iranian Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Region, about 220 km Southeast of Erbil, has been reopened by the Iraqi government after having been closed for three months. Lorries have immediately started crossing with goods. Baghdad had closed the passage on February 10th and the KRG finally secured its reopening.
Another immediate concern of Human Rights defenders regarding Iranian Kurdistan is the fate of the political prisoner sentenced to death Ramin Hossein Panahi. Wounded during his arrest on 22nd June 2017 in Sanandaj, accused of being a member of the opposition party Komala and of having taken up arms against the State, he was sentenced to death in January 2018. The KHRN announced that the members if the Panahi family had been told that he had been transferred to an isolated cell of Sanandaj Prison to be hanged on 5th May. Panahi’s niece Nishtiman, whose husband was also detained by the Iranian regime, committed suicide because of the stress due to her uncle’s verdict of execution.
On the 3rd the Minister of Justice of the province of Kordestan (Iran) announced that Panahi was armed at the time of his arrest and had “confessed”. With “complete derision of the Judicial process” the condemned man was proposed to confess online in exchange for the revocation of his death sentence… Then the group tweeted on 2nd May that Panahi had been “taken out of the isolation cell and put in a normal cell”, which might mean that his sentence had been suspended. This event follows several international appeals in his favour: on 1st May Amnesty International in particular had called on the Iranian regime to end Panahi’s execution, describing his trial as “inequitable”.
On the 6th , in reply to the declarations of the courts, Sharifeh Zarînî, Panahi’s mother, challenged the accusation of his being armed made by the Revolutionary Guards and called for a public trial for her son, repeating that he was absolutely innocent and had never carried arms at any time. However Panahi was again moved into isolation on the 25th. On the 25, his mother spoke out again, asking the European Union to raise her son’s case with Teheran during the discussions in Vienna on the “Iranian nuclear agreement”. She sent an open letter on the subject to the EU’s High Representative, Federica Mogherini.
Recently several publications by NGOs, including reports of Human Rights defence organisations have triggered the anger of the Turkish authorities.
Recently several publications by NGOs, including reports of Human Rights defence organisations have triggered the anger of the Turkish authorities. We give a short list of them and indicate the links that can enable them to be downloaded, since most of them are written in English and can be found on web sites.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom, a Swedish centre especially interested in breaches of the rights of journalists, follows closely the present situation of journalists in Turkey. It has published several reports on the situation in this country, amongst which are, for example: Abuse of the Interpol system by Turkey or Hate speech against Christians in Erdoğan’s Turkey… The organisation’s site is at https://stockholmcf.org/, and the reports can be accessed by chosing the item “Reports” from the menu, on the right side of the screen.
The Human Rights defence organisation Amnesty International, whose Turkish officials were themselves victims of repression, has recently published on Turkey. On 26th April it brought out: Weathering the storm: Defending human rights in Turkey's climate of fear, downloadable in English and Turkish:
In the Facts and Figures category, we must mention an article published on 7th May last, which, after recalling the figures of the repression at that date, draws up the biographies of 12 people who are resisting in Turkey today, amongst whom are cited Taner Kiliç (president of Amnesty Turkey), the lawyer Eren Keskin, the activist of civil society, Osman Kavala, the Kurdish artist, Zehra Doğan. Link:
Finally Amnesty’s “country page” on Turkey can be found at this address:
Amnesty also published at the end of April, in cooperation with “Justice for Iran” a 31-page report on Iran entitled: Criminal cover-up: Iran destroying mass graves of victims of 1988 killings. This report, which covers the victims of the 1988 massacres, in which thousands of political prisoners were killed in secret, uses new proofs, including satellite pictures, photos and videos, to show that the Iranian authorities tried in the previous weeks to destroy the sites of the mass graves with bulldozers and to build over these places blocks of flats or motorways or to throw rubbish there or build new tombs. The report can be downloaded in English or Persian at this address:
In a completely different register, the American International report on religious freedom, published by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of the US State Departement particularly irritated the Turkish Foreign Office (International Religious Freedom Report for 2017). The Ministry described this report’s section on Turkey as “the repetition of certain unfounded allegations”. The report, which aims to make known the problems some religious communities meet, especially the minorities, indicates that thousands of people suspected of being members of the Gulenist movement have been arrested or suspended from Turkish public institutions, especially the Directorate of Religious affairs (Diyanet), and also reminds of the case of the Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson.. The Turkish Minister criticises the text for not mentioning that Fethullah Gülen and his movement are terrorists.
The USCIRF reports for 2018 and 2017 are visible and downloadable from:
Finally the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (TPP), which met in Paris on 15th and 16th last March in a session on Turkey entitled: “Session on allegations of breaches of international law and international humanitarian law by the Turkish Republic and its officials in their relations with the Kurdish people and their organisations”, has given and published its verdict on 25th May in the precincts of the European Parliament in Brussels. Philippe Texier, Vice President of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, former judge of the French “Cour de cassation” (Court of Appeals) has declared:
“The President of the Turkish State, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is directly responsible for the War Crimes and State Crimes committed, in particular in the Southeast of Anatolia”. He had already indicated in the preliminary conclusions of the jury that the latter had concluded the conflict was the result of a breach of the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people and that it should thus be considered as a non international armed conflict as defined by international law and not as a police operation against terrorism — the version defended by the Turkish State.
The verdict as the video of the conference as a whole that can be consulted on line on the TPP’s site on the Turks and the Kurds: http://tribunal-turkey-kurds.org/. A video (under 6 min) showing the exact wording of the verdict is also available (http://tribunal-turquie-kurdes.org/index.php/verdict/). Finally the indictment report, a large document of over 120 pages (in English) containing all the testimonies brought to the TPP, is downloadable from: http://tribunal-turkey-kurds.org/index.php/in/.